Personal Story: Better on the Other Side of Back Pain
For over two decades, 42-year-old Tom Mitchel of Marlton, NJ, dealt with reoccurring back pain. Initially it was a little pain, a spasm here and there. He’d take some ibuprofen and that was it. But, as time went on, the pain increased, and the spasms became relentless.
In February of 2016, he saw a sports medicine specialist, and was diagnosed with a stress fracture and ruptured disc. He started getting injections in his spine to reduce the pain, but they didn’t work. The pain persisted and became so bad that he could no longer sit in the car long enough for his two-hour round trip commute to work.
Something had to be done.
That’s when he sought out James Sanfilippo, MD, a surgeon at Virtua Brain and Spine Institute, for a second opinion. Because the injections were not working, Dr. Sanfilippo recommended surgery, and Tom agreed.
Not only did the pain prevent him from going into work – he was forced to work from home – it was affecting his entire life: “I went to family parties and neighborhood gatherings and just sat around. I couldn’t play with my kids. I was tired of telling the same story. I was mentally and physically exhausted.”
Tom was nervous about the surgery, but he knew he couldn’t live with the pain any longer and thought: “It’ll be better on the other side.”
Tom had the surgery at Virtua Memorial in Mount Holly, in May of 2016, and was up and walking that same night. “I think the care that I received in the first few days was very important to my recovery.”
The next day, in physical therapy, he climbed stairs. And by day two, he was home. While there was some discomfort during the recovery period after surgery, the pain he had experienced previously was gone.
“The best advice I got from Dr. Sanfilippo was not to rush my recovery. And anything he said to do, I did. I trusted him.”
He went to Virtua physical therapy to recover the muscle mass and movement that he had lost being from being sedentary for such a long period of time. Thanks to his therapists, he went from walking from his house to his neighbor’s house to two doors down, then three doors, then four. He walked further and got faster.
And, at three months post-surgery, Tom was lifted of all restrictions. He doesn’t even think about his back pain anymore, and more importantly neither does his family.
Updated October 10, 2017